How do I get my spouse to open up on issues concerning our relationship? We never resolve any problems that come up and end up not talking for a month about what happened. It's become a revolving door of one problem after another and it all leads to silence. Is there a way to approach this to actually start a healthy dialogue.
Though certainly not true in all cases, there is some validity to jokes and stereotypes… or else they wouldn’t ring true. That having been said, you might have heard that the four words a man hates most are: "We need to talk."
There are lots of couples who face the very same situation. And, you might be surprised to learn that there are also many reasons that this silent treatment occurs. It has become popular to think in terms of "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus." While there is some truth to the variations in the ways that males and females have been raised, it turns out that our gender differences are far more biologically driven than this theory espouses.
Recent research has shown that the brains of men and women are truly different. Therefore, cognitive skills, memory, and language processing are all going to vary from each other. An article I read not too long ago also explained that, anatomically, men do not have the ability to verbally express their emotions as articulately as women.
Now, all of this may seem like you are doomed. However, this is certainly not the case! Here are a couple of things you can do:
You have to understand how males process best. Men are creatures who prefer action. Therefore, having a sit down is just not going to feel comfortable to him, and he will avoid it like the plague. So, instead bring up something while you’re doing a task with one another.
Make sure you do not raise some issue in an attacking way. No one likes to feel attacked, especially men. The natural response is to defend oneself and the likely response is to attack back or shut down. So, raise the issue in more of a matter-of-fact manner assuring him that you want to clarify something so that the two of you can have a better understanding.
When you do bring a topic up, you want to phrase it where you are exploring for information about the situation rather than drilling him. Let me offer a concrete example. Let’s say that you were at a party and he wanted to leave early. Instead of asking, "Why did you want to leave?" ask the following: "What about the situation made you feel like leaving?"
This may seem like a subtle difference, but in the second example the onus is being taken off of him and being put on the external circumstances. By doing so, your mate is less likely to feel as if he is being confronted.
Remember to take responsibility for your part of whatever issue you are raising. Sometimes, it even helps to say that you are bringing something up because you know it has set something off in you and you want to try to understand it better.
One more thing. The majority of men say that what they want most is to please their wives. Again, through research, it has been found that though women are more emotional, men are more sensitive. They don’t like feeling inadequate or disappointing to their mates. What this boils down to is a lot of men believing that it is better to be silent than to speak and say the wrong thing.
Therefore, it’s important that you reassure your husband that you do want to know what’s on his mind and that he doesn’t have to be afraid of your reaction. Of course, if he does take the risk to then speak up, you must be reinforcing of him doing so and not react badly to what he has expressed.
Finally, I refer you to an excellent book by Love and Stosny entitled, How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It. In this book, there’s a great deal of explanation about the gender differences, as well as suggestions about how to connect with one another.
Thanks for bringing this matter up. Good communication is certainly a keystone to a solid relationship.
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com